Upcoming and Planned Projects

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Frocktails Flare Dress

Last Saturday was Sydney's Frocktails for 2018, where we sewists get together to have some fun, meet the person behind the Instagram handle, talk about fabrics, and have an excuse to make something fun and fancy to wear. This dress is the Loose Flare Drape Dress, pattern 11 in Drape Drape. Although a modern pattern, the tent dress shape gives it more of a 1960s feel.

For Frocktails this year I wasn't sure at all what I wanted to make, so I put it in the hands of the Instagram sewing community. I grabbed a pile of fabric options out of the drawers and draped them over my dressmaker's dummy, took pictures, and asked for advice. There wasn't a clear winner, and every option got at least one vote, but this fabric got the most early support. I really had no idea what to make with it and honestly didn't think I'd find anything, but thought I'd look through my patterns anyway. I saw the loose flare pattern in Drape Drape and thought it might work, so posted a picture of it. Everyone told me to go for it, and I din't have any other ideas. So basically this dress wasn't so much a planned outfit as a "well maybe this will work" creation. I think it worked.

This is a wonderful pattern, if slightly lacking in instructions. There's succinct and then there's cryptic, and the instructions for this dress slip towards the latter. There's little detail in some of the steps, and even with the pictures it wasn't always completely clear what to do - particularly with how to make sure the flare piece doesn't get caught between the lining. I also cut it out mirror imaged, because for some reason the pattern was meant to be cut out on the right side of the fabric instead of the reverse as is the norm with most patterns, but wasn't labeled. However this doesn't make any real difference to the final product.

The measurements on Japanese patterns are often a bit tricky. For this book I'm the height of the extra large, but the rest of my measurements match the small. To deal with this I used extended the small size pieces to the length of the extra large when tracing them out. Because of the large size of the pattern pieces the fabric was a tiny bit smaller than it should have been to fit all pieces on in line with the grain. Had it been 10cm wider or longer it would all have fit correctly, but as it was I had to slightly angle the front drape piece to be able to fit the back on. And in the end my pattern plancement matched the flare exactly to the front piece. Got to love those inadvertent perfect placements!

I had a few people at Frocktails ask if the fabric was a silk. In fact, the fabric is a polyester crepe bought in Cabramatta for $7 a metre. Despite being so cheap and being polyester it's actually a fantastic fabric. It has excellent drape, feels lovely and soft and the colours of the digital print are wonderfully bright. The lining was from an op shop, and cost about $1 for several metres, so this dress is very cheap but doesn't look it.

I also made the ridiculous decision at 3pm on the day of Frocktails to make a clutch purse. I'd been planning to take a black clutch I own, but could not find it and didn't think any of my other bags suited my dress. I knew I had some (cheap and crappy) faux leather, so I did a quick Google to look for a simple and fast bag pattern. I found this one which involves no sewing, just glue. Although I did add a line of stitching in part to ensure the fabric and faux leather didn't come apart. I also had enough scrap fabric left to use to line the bag, and added a vintage button from my collection inherited from my grandma. I don't think the glue was completely dry when I left home, but the bag turned out as well as could be for making it at such short notice.

 I'm really happy with how both the dress and bag turned out, and it's always nice to catch up with the sewing community. Sitting at a sewing machine is very solitary, so catching up with other sewists is always good. And who doesn't love a good excuse to wear something fun?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Drifting Dress

First completed make of 2018. This is the Adrift Dress from Papercut Patterns. It's very simple, and feminine but not fussy. It also feels very cool and comfortable which was great given these photos were taken on a hot and humid day.

The fabric is a rayon from My Hung. The mustard yellow is a colour I would have walked straight past a few years ago because I wouldn't have thought it suited me. But sewing has made me more adventurous in the prints and colours I'll wear. Plus, there has been a lot of mustards around in the last few years so I figured I'd at least pick it up to look at. I was looking for a rayon for this pattern because it needed something with that drape, and this was the nicest rayon on offer. I held it up against myself and it actually didn't look too bad, so I bought it.

The pattern, as with all Papercut Patterns I've made, was very straightforward and easy to follow. There aren't too many pieces to deal with, and the construction is pretty simple - the only darts are plain bust darts, the sleeves are flounces like the skirt, so there's no gathering, and the waist is elasticated. The pattern actually calls for a cord tie for the skirt, but I didn't have any so just inserted elastic.

The long curved hem on the flounce is hand stitched, which took about three hours. I decided to stitch it by hand to ensure it was neat and even as curved seams can be tricky, but did regret it a bit around half way through because of how long it took to do. But having finished it off, it is even and probably neater than it would have been if done by machine - I just might wait a while before doing another project that requires so much hand stitching. 

Papercut patterns are always written very well and easy to make, but I did have one issue with this one - the bodice is very short. I'm 5'6" and the length is alright, but anyone taller would need to make adjustments to this pattern. It wasn't until I'd finished sewing the bodice together that I realised its lack of length, which sits a little above the waist. Especially when combined with the front skirt which is relatively short where the two pieces wrap over each other. If I make this again, I'll add an inch or two to the bodice to give it a better length.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Making Summer Happen Dress

A dress in this fabric has been a long time coming for me. It's Liberty of London Madras Check Hyderabad E. I've taken the bolt out at The Fabric Store probably every time I've been in there in the last two years but always put it back because the pink is very pink and the roses are very yellow, so I worried that the fabric might be a bit overwhelming. But restrained colours and prints just aren't me. So when the Fabric Store had one of their one-day sales last month I finally bought 1.5 metres ot make a dress.

The name of the dress comes from my work. Each year at my work we have a christmas/end of year decorations competition on our floor. This year there was a theme, one person's trash is another person's treasure. Our branch made a beach-themed diorama, complete with offcuts of the roses on this fabric as garden and repurposed sign edited from making it happen to making summer happen. I wore the dress - and we won!

The pattern is Weigel's 1358. Madame Weigel was an Australian pattern maker from the late 19th Centure to the mid 20th Century, most of that time run by Madame Weigel herself. I'm not 100% sure when this pattern is from, but based on the cut of the dress and the styling of the pattern envelope I'd guess it's from the mid 1950s.

The dress was very easy to make, but the instructions are very brief, just two short columns on an A4 piece of paper and one diagram of the cutting layout. I've noticed this on some older patterns - there was a clear understanding that women learned how to sew and didn't need much in the way of specifics of how to make a dart or insert a zipper.

I made a three changes to the pattern when making this, all to the skirt. The skirt is meant to be cut all in one piece with only one side seam. But the fabric is a check, and the lines would have sat at a strange angle along the centre front cut that way, so instead I cut two skirt pieces on the grain. I also raised the hem and gave it a slight high-low shape, ending just above the knee at the front and at the bottom of the knee at the back, and added pockets.

The only slight annoyance I have is that I cut the bodice slightly off centre. I was very careful when placing the skirt piece on the fabric to  make sure the centre front was in the middle of the check, but I didn't take the same care on the bodice, so the blue stripes are just a bit mismatched.

I love how this dress - or this "chic little model" as the instructions describe it - looks. The square neckline is a nice difference, and having a side zipper instead of a back zipper gives it a cleaner look. It has very simple darts in the front and back, extending up slightly over an inch from the waist. The very minimal sewing still allows the dress to fit well but also have a lot of ease of movement.

It's a very simple and versatile pattern, so I can see myself making many versions and variations on it. But for now I'll enjoy the bright pinks and yellows of this one.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Spring Garden Pants

I've been meaning to learn how to sew pants. I have tried a few times, but it's always daunting and I'm never as happy with how they turn out as with my other makes. But I wanted some new pants to wear to work, so I decided it was time for my next attempt at them. I own a few pants patterns and am planning to work my way up through them by difficulty level. Fitted side zip pants seemd like the easiest place to start.

The pattern is Vintage Vogue V9189, a high waisted pattern with two shorts lengths and two pants lengths originally from 1960. The amazing floral fabric is a cotton sateen with a bit of stretch from My Hung in Hurstville. I've seen a few floral pants around lately, and given it is almost summer here I thought bright floral would be the best choice. Plus, being a plain slim-fitting pattern these pants can handle a print better than a more traditional trouser.

One of the really good things about this pattern is that it comes with three different lengths: short, medium and long. Given one of the problems I've had making pants before was where the curve of the hip sat on the pattern compared to where it is on my body, it was good to know when I opened the pattern up that I'd be able to use the different lengths to make those adjustments before cutting out if I needed to. In the end I made the medium without any adjustments, but for others who are taller or shorter, or who have different leg and waist lengths, this pattern effectively does those adjustments for you.

These are definitely the best fitting pants I've made, but that was partly by accident. I'd almost finished sewing them up - except for the waistband and hemming - so tried them on. With other pants I've made they have often been a bit loose at the crotch and inner thighs, and these were as well. Given the slim fit of the pattern it really stood out, so I decided I would sew the seam in closer. I had intended to evenly take in 1cm and see how it looked, but when sewing the crotch curve the pants back pulled a bit and I ended up sewing it in 2cm. I noticed because the seam was not straight just after I'd sewn across the centre of the crotch so I stopped stitching.

I was going to immediately grab my seam ripper and unpick it all, but thought I'd first try them on to check if I'd at least dealt with the loose thigh issue. When I put them on not only did the leg fit better but the crotch on the side I'd taken in was also fixed, which was great. Of course, that meant I somehow had to recreate my accidental fix on the other side. Because I'd started sewing from the thigh for my accidentally correct adjustment, I decided to do the same for the other leg. I also marked where I'd become uneven between the front and back, and very carefully sewed it, using my fingers to adjust the back until I reached where I'd initially stopped. 

There are slanted side pockets which are angled very close to the side seam making them slightly hidden. The pockets are understitched to try and stop them from turning out, but for some reason the righthand pocket facing doesn't always stay down. The side zipper was nice and easy to put in, just like a skirt's. The waistband also went in well - I have had patterns in the past where the waistband piece was too short or too long, but this one was just right.

As a finishing touch, the button is from my tin of vintage buttons I inherited from my grandma. I like that it's vintage, so fits with the era and style of the pants, the colour matches perfectly, and it's nice to have that connection to my grandma, who sewed a lot herself.

 I am really proud of how these pants turned out. The fabric and the fit are just right, and they are just fun to wear. They've improved my confidence in making pants, and I plan keep working my way through the other patterns I own increasing the difficulty, including doing fly finishes. In the meantime, I'll be wearing these as much as I can.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Patti Pocket Skirt

This is the Patti Pocket Skirt from Amy Nicole Studios. A month or so back I was lucky enough to get offered to pattern test a new skirt. And not just any skirt pattern, but one with pockets, which are too few and far between in women's patterns.

The fabric is from My Hung in Hurstville. It's a polyester rayon blend which I've been tempted by for a few years, but never previously had a pattern appropriate for the fabric. The pleats in this pattern needed a fabric that could hold both structure and softness. I couldn't find anything in my stash that seemed quite right, so went looking. Wandering through My Hung this fabric finally stood out as suited to a specific patter.

I made the size 0, view A, the above the knee length. The pattern is designed for petite sizes of 5'4" and shorter. I am 5'6", but long-waisted, so my legs are closer to a slightly more petite height. As such I did not make any changes to the pattern in my construction, apart from using French seams to prevent fraying. I also don't have an invisible zipper foot so had to do a standard zipper insertion. I even followed Amy's instructions to use very few or no pins which was honestly pretty daunting, but actually turned out well.

I started sewing this up a bit later than planned, so I used the second tester version of the pattern and the third tester version of the instrutions. The version I sewed up is I think identical to the final version for this length, and I used the final version of the instructions.

The skirt has six panels as well as pockets. The panels allow for blocking and print mixing. I did consider finding a fabric that would allow proper blocking, but in the end I liked this fabric too much. There is some very subtle blocking as I cut the side pieces on the alternate stripes - the blue and gold match all the way around, but the purple and peach alternate.

Overall I was very happy with this pattern. It was quite straightforward to make, with instructions both clearly written and with clear diagrams. The pockets on this skirt are slightly looser than the body of the skirt, which at first meant I thought I had cut the pieces unevenly. But the instructions do say this is intended, and it does mean there is room to properly use the pockets. The only small thing to note about it is that you need to take care when pressing the pleats and pockets to avoid uneven creases.

I really like this pattern. The pockets are a good size, the pleats are lovely and the length is great. The sizing worked perfectly on me, but for anyone taller or with longer legs it would probably be necessary to lengthen the shorter version A length. I am thinking about making the version B midi length, or possibly just a different version of this short length. It's a lovely skirt, and I definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Muriel's Chicken Frill Sundress

I'd originally planned this dress as part of Mena of Make This Look's Summer of the Pinafore (northern hemisphere summer) challenge on Instagram. I posted a picture of it almost finished (the facings hadn't been stitched down) and had planned to put it on the blog within a week of that. I finished this dress at the beginning of the month, but it's taken me four weeks to put it up on the blog. I took some photos a couple of weeks ago but when I downloaded them onto my computer the were blurry and the light was terrible. So I had to find a bit of time to do a take 2 and start again. And apparently I like looking to my right in photos.

The fabric is one I picked up at a Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap about 18 months ago, which was the first spoolettes event I went to and I think the first fabric swap. I loved the quirky retro oval-shaped chickens on it, so I had to pick it up. The sewing pattern has the name Muriel written on the envelope, hence the name for the dress. I found the pattern at a vintage fair about 10 years ago, and this is the second time I've used it.

The pattern is a 1948 McCall pattern, number 7904. The original pattern actually has two lines of gathered ruffles, at the princess seam which I kept but shortened slightly, and around the armscye. I decided to leave that ruffle off because it would have looked a bit too costumey. I also did in seam pockets instead of the giant patch pockets of the pattern. The skirt is shortened from a couple of inches below the knee to just above to make it a bit more modern and wearable.

Because I have used the pattern before it was fairly easy to sew up. I even managed to pattern match the chickens down the front of the dress. However when I made it before I'd made the second version, which has short puffy sleeves rather than ruffles. I did a bit of playing around with exactly how I wanted the shoulder ruffle to be. The instructions were to simply gather the ruffle, but I wasn't sure it would look right, especially given the envelope illustration shows them sticking up to chin height which would probably look ridiculous. In the end I decided to freehand pleat them, so they don't stick up high but they aren't sharply pressed either. They're fun, rather than obnoxious.

This make is also vintage, so is part of my vintage pledge for the year, which had been to create a capsule wardrobe. Whether it ends up being an actual capsule wardrobe or I just make a number of different types of vintage clothing pieces remains to be seen. And the fabric ended up being such a large piece that I was able to take the 1 metre remnant to the latest Spoolettes fabric swap on Sunday for it to be used by another Sydney sewist!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Teal Merino Jumper

Another jumper to round out the winter wear. This jumper was also in my last post with my pais-liberty skirt, but here it is on its own. This is a very simple jumper in a pattern I've used many times for various tops because it's a simple and versatile shape that works as everything from a t-shirt to a jumper.

The merino is from The Fabric Store. It's a teal colour with a darker greenish blue pattern that looks a bit like it belongs on tiles. It's a heavier merino at 240gsm, and is more of a Hacci knit than a jersey. It's very soft and light but still warm. And fortunately it isn't itchy, which wool can often be.

The pattern is the epaullette sleeve top from Japanese sewing book She Has A Mannish Style, but I've narrowed the sleeves and narrowed and lengthened the body. Because I have the Japanese version of the book rather than the English translation I have to follow the pictures as my only instructions. As is typical with Japanese patterns the seam allowances aren't included. Given I wanted to narrow and lengthen the pattern that mostly didn't matter, except that I forgot to add seam allowance at the neckline so it's a littly wider than ideal.

I used the selvedge of the fabric for the sleeve cuffs so I could leave them unfinished. Both the hem and neckline are hand finished in order to keep the jumper looking neat. I always prefer this look, and it was especially good on the hem here because I had cut it slightly unevenly, which would have been highlighted by visible stitching.

The jumper is photographed here on a week away down the south coast and featuring the roots and base of the trunk of the largest Moreton Bay Fig I've ever seen. This jumper is one that can be casual with jeans like I'm wearing here or worn to work with a more professional skirt or pants.

I had plans for more a little more cool weather clothes after this jumper, but Sydney seems to have flicked the switch straight from winter to summer so I'm not sure how much need I'll have for long sleeves now. I will wear it when I can though, because it's very comfortable and soft.